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UN Biodiversity’s executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema and deputy secretary David Cooper, with Francis Ogwal and Basil Van Havre, WG2020 co-chairs.
UN Biodiversity’s executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema and deputy secretary David Cooper, with Francis Ogwal and Basil Van Havre, WG2020 co-chairs. Credit: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis.
2 December 2022 13:56

Interactive: Who wants what at the COP15 biodiversity summit

Multiple Authors

NatureInteractive: Who wants what at the COP15 biodiversity summit

Nearly 20,000 delegates from across the world will soon be arriving in Montreal for the second part of COP15, the much-delayed and much-anticipated UN biodiversity summit.

The conference will see countries aim to agree on a major new set of rules for stemming and reversing nature loss called the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework” (GBF) – often referred to colloquially as the “Paris Agreement for nature”.

A draft version of the GBF has a long list of wide-ranging targets, tackling everything from conservation and pollution through to climate mitigation and subsidies considered harmful to nature, such as fossil-fuel subsidies. 

The summit comes just two weeks after the conclusion of the UN climate summit COP27 in Egypt, where several new deforestation and agricultural pledges made headlines, plus terms such as “food”, “rivers” and “nature-based solutions” were referenced in the final agreement of a UN climate summit for the first time.

China is the COP15 president, but it has been unable to host the event in the originally intended city of Kunming due to Covid-19 restrictions. Therefore, the talks have reverted to Montreal where the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is headquartered.

But China has not invited world leaders to Montreal, sparking fears that the political momentum needed to produce an ambitious outcome will be lacking at the summit. Slow progress on the GBF at preparatory talks in Geneva and Nairobi has also raised concerns among observers, scientists and politicians.

To keep track of what different countries and groups want to get out of COP15, Carbon Brief has conducted an wide-ranging assessment of priority issues for various parties attending the summit.

The findings are presented in an interactive table below. The contents are based on publicly available documents and research conducted by Carbon Brief.

In the table, the first column shows various countries, nation groupings and negotiating blocs that will attend COP27, each with their own set of priorities. (Negotiating blocs at UN biodiversity summits differ from those at UN climate summits. For details, see: What are the key negotiating groups at COP15?)

The second column shows the major topics that will be discussed during the negotiations. The third column lists more specific – but often contentious – issues that fall under the various negotiating topics.

The final column indicates the position that each grouping is likely to take on a particular issue at the summit. This ranges from “high priority” – meaning the grouping is likely to be strongly pushing the issue – to “red line”, which means the grouping is likely to oppose this issue and show no room for compromise.

This is a living document that will be updated during the course of the summit. Please get in touch if you would like to offer additions to the table, by emailing [email protected].

The table illustrates the widespread convergence on a few key issues, including flagship pledges to protect 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030 (see: 30×30).

However, on lots of other issues, ranging from finance to the thorny topic of digital sequence information (DSI), countries remain divided – with many proposing their own solutions and suggestions for how negotiations should move forward.

Below, Carbon Brief explains more about COP15 and the GBF, as well as all of the key topics likely to keep negotiators up through the night in Montreal.

What is COP15?

The Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, is an international treaty established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, along with two other multilateral agreements: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). As with those conventions, the CBD is governed by a Conference of the Parties, or COP.

The main objectives of the CBD are:

  • The conservation of biological diversity.
  • The sustainable use of its components.
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of genetic resources.

To date, 196 countries have ratified the CBD and are thus parties to the convention. The US is a notable outlier, as the only UN member state not to have ratified the treaty – although it still has a presence at COPs.

COP15 will also urge parties to set new progress, deliver an implementation plan and build capacity on the many agreements that make up the CBD. 

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is dedicated to protecting nature from the risks posed by living modified organisms, while the Nagoya Protocol provides guidance on access to genetic resources and the fair sharing of its benefits. The Cartagena Protocol also includes a “Supplementary Protocol” that provides rules on liability and redress relating to living modified organisms.

German chancellor Helmut Kohl signing the biodiversity convention and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992.
German chancellor Helmut Kohl signing the biodiversity convention and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992. Credit: Sue Cunningham Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo.

Originally, COP15 was due to take place in Kunming, China in 2020, marking the first time the country would hold a major UN environmental conference. The summit was postponed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was ultimately split into a two-part affair. 

The first part of the conference was held in October 2021 as a hybrid event both in Kunming and online. That meeting resulted in the Kunming Declaration (pdf), a non-binding agreement reaffirming the parties’ commitment to upholding the CBD.

While the second part was initially supposed to be held in Kunming in late April and early May 2022, it was ultimately moved to Montreal due to continuing Covid-19 restrictions – although China still holds the presidency of COP15.

In between the two halves of the COP were three meetings of the open-ended working group tasked with drafting the GBF and steering countries towards consensus on its final form. These meetings include the final working group meeting which is set for 3-5 December, immediately before the COP begins. Carbon Brief has reported on the progress made in the previous meetings in Geneva and Nairobi.

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What is the ‘post-2020 global biodiversity framework’?

The overarching goal of the global framework, which is intended to be finalised by the end of COP15, is to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. 

Decadal goals for biodiversity were previously set at the CBD’s COP10 in 2010, which was held in Nagoya, Japan. At that summit, almost every country in the world formally adopted the UN’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-20, agreeing to 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets in order to achieve a goal of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050. 

These targets aimed to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, eliminate subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity and expand nature reserves to cover 17% of the world’s land areas and 10% of marine areas. 

In September 2020, a CBD report found that governments had collectively failed to meet even a single one of these targets. 

But the report cautioned against losing momentum, saying that “it is not too late” to “bend the curve of biodiversity decline”. It added that doing so will require actions consistent with the targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement

At the biodiversity COP14 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in 2018, parties decided to develop the post-2020 GBF and create a “dedicated open-ended intersessional working group” to help with its preparation. 

The first draft of the framework was published in July 2021, after two rounds of pre-pandemic, in-person meetings and one round of virtual meetings of the working group and the CBD’s technical and implementation bodies.

The most recent draft of the text was finalised after the fourth meeting of the working group, which was held in Nairobi in June this year. 

The GBF as it currently stands builds on the past decade’s Aichi targets and Strategic Biodiversity Plan. The text has 22 targets and 10 “milestones” for how to get there by 2030, en route to the overarching goal of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.

There are more than 900 square brackets in the GBF ahead of the Montreal talks. Items in these brackets are still up for discussion and have not yet been agreed between countries. A text is not finalised until nations reach a consensus and remove the brackets, settling on a final wording around each issue. 

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What are the key negotiating groups at COP15?

The key players at UN biodiversity talks differ from those at UN climate negotiations. 

Notably, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – a powerful force at climate summits – does not have a strong voice at biodiversity summits. The Group of 77 (G77) plus China, which was instrumental in the set-up of the historic loss-and-damage fund at COP27, also lacks a significant presence.

The African Group, however, does operate in a similar way at biodiversity talks as it does at climate talks. At COP15, it is seeking to balance ambitious goals with the need for development. The EU is also a major force at both climate and biodiversity summits.

Other major groupings include the Like-Minded Mega Diverse Countries (LMMDs) – a group consisting of Bolivia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela. This group looks after around 60% of the world’s biodiversity.

(The LMMD group has been less active at biodiversity summits in the last few years, an expert tells Carbon Brief. In Geneva, a new grouping called the Like-Minded Developing Countries on Biodiversity and Development – including the African Group, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Pakistan and Venezuela – issued a joint statement demanding $100bn a year for biodiversity.)

Major economies find a home in JUSCANZ, a group representing Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In Nairobi, this group issued a statement opposing demands for a new, ring-fenced global biodiversity fund. (It is likely the UK will join this group now that it has left the EU.)

Indigenous voices operate at the CBD through the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB). Reflecting the importance of Indigenous knowledge and rights at biodiversity summits (see: Indigenous rights), this group actively participates in discussions on documents and draft decisions – and is able to give statements during plenary sessions.

Other regional groups that sometimes intervene in negotiations include the Latin America and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), the Asia-Pacific Group, the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) and the Central and Eastern Europe group.

It is worth noting that, in general, interventions by negotiating blocs are less coordinated at biodiversity summits than they are at climate summits, experts tell Carbon Brief. For example, some LMMDs, such as Costa Rica and Colombia, are pushing for an ambitious outcome at COP15, while others, including Brazil, have historically been seen to block progress.

There are also major country groupings that are helping to shape negotiations on the GBF.

The High-Ambition Coalition for Nature & People, co-chaired by Costa Rica and France, is a group of 114 nations that have pledged to protect 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030 – one of the flagship targets of the GBF (see 30×30).

The Global Ocean Alliance (GOA), led by the UK, is a group of 73 member nations. 132 nations have pledged specifically to protect 30% of their oceans by 2030.

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What’s happened since Nairobi?

The UN Environment Programme’s headquarters in Nairobi was the site of the fourth – and what facilitators hoped would be the last – meeting of the open-ended working group trying to put the GBF together. 

The six-day long talks began on 21 June and often ran late into the night. They finally concluded with a press conference at 8:30pm on 26 June where UN CBD chief Elizabeth Mrema announced that there would be a fifth meeting in Montreal immediately before the COP. 

The released text confirmed what delegates acknowledged in hallways: the meeting had yielded text with more divergence than consensus, despite its mandate to achieve the opposite. 

To resolve the bracket jam, co-chairs would continue informal consultations with countries, and countries would engage in their own bilaterals to “see where compromises can be [made] and better understand why there are differences”, Mrema said.

Three days after Nairobi, the CBD’s technical body convened a special 3-day workshop for experts nominated by governments and organisations. Delegates were tasked with further developing indicators countries will use to monitor and report on their progress under the GBF this decade. The workshop’s outcomes –  from wording on “pesticide risk” to calculating national benefits from wild species – can be found here.

Around the Venue of the 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
Around the Venue of the 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Credit: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis.

Then, between 26 and 30 September, the co-chairs convened a meeting with an “Informal Group” of country negotiators in Montreal, with financial support from the EU. 

Members of this Informal Group were picked by the co-chairs, advised by the CBD COP Bureau. The group comprised five country representatives from each region of the world, a selection that co-chairs say “was regionally balanced and aimed to reflect the various views expressed during meetings of the working group.”

At the meeting, representatives of Indigenous peoples and local communities were invited to “share their perspectives” on the GBF. However, their participation was online and restricted to only one session. 

On 17 October, the Informal Group presented its conclusions, suggestions and cleaned-up draft in an outcomes document that is less bracket-heavy, but with significant changes. For instance, the streamlined text cuts out language around debt (see: Biodiversity Finance) and for direct access payments to be made to Indigenous communities for their contributions to conservation. 

This “streamlined” text might make work easier for negotiators when they sit down on Monday, but parties could reject their recommendations and cuts. Not all countries were consulted. 

Experts told Carbon Brief that the Informal Group has also faced criticism from civil society, Indigenous groups and at least one state for its “non-transparent process”, especially since participation and equity in biodiversity decision-making are cornerstones of what the GBF is calling for. 

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What are the key issues up for debate at COP15?


Among the most recognisable points of debate is “30 by 30” – the call to conserve 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by 2030. At COP15, this push will be led by two groups: one seeking to preserve both the land and seas and one that is focused only on the ocean. 

The High-Ambition Coalition for Nature & People has garnered 114 signatories since its launch at the One Planet summit in Paris in January 2021. These countries have indicated their “commitment to protect at least 30% of the globe’s land and ocean by 2030”. 

A Masai Elder surveying the Great Rift Valley, Tanzania.
A Masai Elder surveying the Great Rift Valley, Tanzania. Credit: Gallo Images / Alamy Stock Photo.

Separately, the UK-led Global Ocean Alliance (GOA) seeks to preserve 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, through both marine protected areas and other conservation methods. As of 30 November, the group has 73 members and 132 nations backing this ocean pledge. 

Few countries have expressed outright opposition to the global 30×30 pledges, with Turkey a notable exception. 

But non-governmental organisations, such as the Nature Conservancy, have cautioned that these decisions must be made through “thoughtful, science-based, equitable and participatory management” in order to make the goal an effective one.

In addition, some NGOs have called for a high percentage of land and seas to be protected.

In a letter to delegates published in March, the campaign group Avaaz pointed out that a recent landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded with high confidence that “maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30 to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and oceans”.

The letter argued the IPCC’s findings indicated that the 30% target was “too low” and urged countries to instead aim for the top range of 50%.

Additionally, several Indigenous groups have expressed concerns that the 30×30 target will result in increased land grabs by countries seeking to create new protected areas (see: Indigenous rights). 

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have said that, in the current draft, “most of the language protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities – and requiring [their] free, prior and informed consent – is still in square brackets”, further limited by references to “national legislation”. 

Biodiversity finance

Finance for biodiversity is, predictably, one of the thorniest targets in the GBF. The world’s biodiversity is largely held in low-income and developing countries. But the developed world is primarily responsible for both current and historical resource use, along with biodiversity loss due to factors such as climate change. 

Financial matters are housed under Target 19, which has two parts: one dealing with financial flows (19.1), and one that aims to spur technology transfer, research and scientific cooperation (19.2). At the last set of negotiations in Nairobi, the latter (19.2) was cleared of all conflicts. But with 77 square brackets still framing a widely-debated set of options in Target 19.1, financial flows for nature will be the hardest to resolve, say experts.

Biodiversity billions

At the Nairobi talks in June, Brazil put forward a proposal for a new “Global Biodiversity Fund” to be established by next year, with a call for the fund to be operational by 2025. 

This fund would be “new and additional and separate” from climate funding and official development assistance. Quantitatively, it mirrors a 2020 climate-finance goal that developed countries are yet to deliver on: $100bn a year, but for biodiversity. 

Brazil’s proposal was supported by South Africa and the 22-country strong Like-minded Group of Developing Countries on Biodiversity and Development” (see: What are the key negotiating groups at COP15?).

In Nairobi, UK and the JUSCANZ bloc opposed the proposal for “new funding”. The UK cited its $3.2bn nature spend and how, as COP26 president, it had secured $12bn in commitments to halt deforestation and land-use change. Like Japan, it favoured the option that such a fund, if established, would place no public finance obligations on developed countries. 

Additionally, the inclusion of “common but differentiated responsibilities” – the principle that while all countries must address environmental destruction, they are not all equally responsible for that destruction – in the GBF text has been opposed by rich countries including Switzerland, Norway and the UK.

Brazil has also called for developed countries to pay “historical reparation” for “irreversible” loss and damage to biodiversity, as well as payment for “environmental services schemes”.

Debt for nature

This year could see debt relief and the reform of development banks surface in both climate and biodiversity finance negotiations. 

Bolivia, in its most recent submission and interventions, has called for the “cancellation and multilateral restructuring of debt to meet biodiversity targets” to be part of both the GBF’s cover decision and its finance target.

Calls to development banks to “consider” and “address” countries’ fiscal space and levels of “sovereign debt in just and equitable ways” was included in the Nairobi draft, along with “debt-for-nature swaps”. 

In the current text from informal consultations, however, debt features only as “debt-for-nature swaps”.

According to Lim Li Ching of the Third World Network, “with so many developing countries affected by the debt crisis, there’s no money to spend on biodiversity conservation.” She tells Carbon Brief:

“One of our main critiques is this: is the framework addressing systemic issues? If not, then we’re only addressing the symptoms of the biodiversity crisis, not the roots. We’re not addressing macro-economic issues, fiscal policies or trade.”

Private finance and schemes including nature-based solutions, biodiversity offsets, carbon credits, a 1% tax on retail and genetic benefit-sharing are also on the cards as potential sources of finance. 

Finance discussions – among the tricky targets that ate into most of the airtime in Nairobi and Geneva – are not likely to feature on the agenda for the fifth-working group meeting. 

Many finance elements will likely be bookmarked for big-ticket ministerial negotiations once COP15 is truly underway.

Reforming ‘harmful’ subsidies 

According to the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) new State of Finance for Nature report, governments spend between $500bn to $1tn on “environmentally harmful subsidies” to fisheries, agriculture and fossil fuels. 

This, they estimate, is three-to-seven times more than public and private investments in nature-based solutions, which the report says “severely undermine efforts to achieve critical environmental targets”.   

Phasing out subsidies that harm biodiversity by “at least $500bn a year” and “repurposing” them for nature is another closely watched and contentious subject that sits under the Target 18 of the GBF.

But given current food, fertiliser and financial crises – exacerbated by climate change – it is understandable that countries are cautious, experts say.

In Geneva and Nairobi, countries opposed specific references to agricultural and fishing subsidies, with Japan saying it was “not appropriate to single out two sectors”.

India opposed the “elimination” of subsidies, suggesting the word “rationalise”, which has not been accommodated.

References to World Trade Organization rules – including a historic agreement on fishing agreed earlier this year – were removed and replaced with “relevant international obligations”. Meanwhile, references to fishing and agriculture subsidies remain in brackets. 

According to UNEP, unsustainable fishing is incentivised by an estimated $15-17bn per year globally, while “nearly all” of the $540bn in agricultural subsidies handed out by governments each year were found to be “price-distorting and environmentally and socially harmful” by the World Economic Forum.

Subsidies are also a potential source of revenue for biodiversity. If realised and re-purposed towards “nature-positive” actions, the target could contribute a significant share to the $700bn sum that developing countries have proposed for the Global Biodiversity Fund.

African Group negotiators have emphasised the need for the “repurposing” of subsidies for biodiversity conservation and have supported a civil society call for “repurposing harmful subsidies worth at least $1.9tn annually”.

Nonetheless, disagreement on Target 18 has dissipated since Geneva, with the number of sets of square brackets decreasing from 114 to 17 between then and Nairobi. In the informal group outcomes, this is down to nine, after the facilitators pulled “all subsidies” together and as a subset of “incentives”.

However, the group noted that “prioritising the stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities” was a “cross-cutting issue”, and suggested bumping it to a supplementary section at the bottom.

Nature-based solutions to climate change

At the UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh last month, history was made as “nature-based solutions” (NBS) was included for the first time in a final agreement at a climate COP, after the term was removed from COP26 cover text. But the issue of the role of NBS in protecting biodiversity – and in mitigating climate change – is far from settled. 

NBS refers to the use of natural resources and ecosystems to adapt to and mitigate climate change – whether through the creation of new ecosystems, such as by tree-planting, the preservation or restoration of existing ecosystems or improvements in land-management practices. Some NBS, such as ecosystem preservation, can encourage biodiversity, while others, such as monoculture tree plantations, can be harmful to biodiversity.

Proponents of NBS say that they can provide valuable benefits to ecosystems, climate and human health, while opponents argue that NBS is often misused towards corporate “greenwashing” and can infringe upon the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Within the context of the GBF, the UK opposes setting the specific goal of NBS providing “about one-third” of climate mitigation, while Bolivia opposes the use of NBS altogether.

Even the phrasing is contentious. Every instance of “nature-based solutions” in the current draft of the GBF is in brackets.

Romania wants the GBF to use the term “ecosystem-based approaches” in place of NBS. The EU, meanwhile, wants the eventual framework to reference NBS rather than ecosystem-based approaches. And the UK supports using both phrasings in the text. 

(For more on NBS, see Carbon Brief’s explainer from last year.)

Agricultural pollution, pesticides and sustainable production

Food systems are “the single largest cause of biodiversity loss on land”, according to the UNCCD’s second Global Land Outlook (GLO2), released earlier this year. 

Target 7 of the GBF covers pollution as a whole – its scope continues to be widened with each iteration – and has specific targets for agricultural pollutants, including synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. The target also contains specific dates and quantities for the phase-out of these pollutants.  

The original target in the first GBF draft had framed this as halving excess nutrient loss and cutting chemical pesticide use by two-thirds by 2030. However, many countries have voiced their opposition to setting defined dates and quantities for this transformation. 

Countries that have opposed definitive deadlines for pesticide phase-out include China, India, New Zealand, Uruguay, Turkey and Mexico, while Bolivia and the EU were in favour. 

Montreal mayor Valerie Plante and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.
Montreal mayor Valerie Plante and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, UN executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, hold up bags of milkweed seeds in Montreal, on November 9 2022. Credit: The Canadian Press / Alamy Stock Photo.

The EU, additionally, echoed the recommendation of experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which sought to frame pesticide pollution in terms of risk, given that some are more toxic to biodiversity even in the smallest quantities. 

China and Japan were also not on board with putting numbers and dates towards a fertiliser phase-out, while Norway, Mexico and Bolivia supported such deadlines.

As of the last text, alternatives on agricultural pollution targets include:

  • Dialling down the 2030 target for pesticides from two-thirds to half.
  • Reducing risks and/or toxicity either by a finite, but undefined, percentage.
  • Reducing synthetic pesticide use and phasing out “highly hazardous” pesticides by 2030.
  • Reducing risks based on national biodiversity targets and resources.

Sustainable agriculture is dealt with in Target 10 on sustainable use. Here, countries are divided on setting a quantified target for how much land they should bring under agroecological farming methods, coming up with sector-specific action plans based on agroecological principles or even mentioning the term at all. 

Opponents include Brazil and Argentina, and those who point out that agroecology “has been singled out” as a solution to biodiversity, arguing that agrobiodiversity and other practices should also be emphasised. Others, such as India, are against a quantitative target, while Switzerland, Colombia and Namibia have pushed for these numerical markers to remain.

The Informal Group’s streamlined suggested text, however, has neither agroecology nor biotechnology as a special reference for the target. 

Separately, references to “halv[ing] the global footprint of diets” and “eliminat[ing] overconsumption” in Target 16 have been opposed by Argentina and Paraguay, but supported by the EU and Switzerland. Chile, Namibia and Switzerland came out in support, broadly, of food systems transformation, with Canada reportedly opposing language around “plant-based” diets.

Digital sequence information

Experts tell Carbon Brief that the issue of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources is expected to be one of the major sticking points in Montreal. DSI refers to the access of genetic code from around the world through digital databases. 

At COP15, delegates will try to hammer out an agreement to ensure countries that provide genetic material through online databases can share the benefits that arise from their use without impacting on the principles of open access and the activity of the scientific community.  

DSI is an evolving concept that prompts a lot of questions. For example, if a multinational company uses digital genetic material originally discovered in a developing country to formulate a new drug or technology, should the developing country benefit from the sales? If so, how? 

The current draft GBF includes a goal to essentially ensure that the benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources are shared fairly and equitably. 

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region including India and Bangladesh, alongside others such as Saudi Arabia, consider DSI integral to access and benefit sharing. Other nations, such as Japan, South Korea and Switzerland, are opposed to finding a DSI solution under the GBF. 

The finer details of DSI were debated at previous working group meetings in Geneva and Nairobi with negotiations expected to continue in Montreal. 

Indigenous rights

The current GBF draft considers the role of Indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge in preserving nature, with 29 references to Indigenous peoples and cultures appearing in the latest text. Research has shown that although Indigenous peoples make up only 5% of the Earth’s population, they are the stewards of around 85% of the planet’s biodiversity.

The current draft aims to enable “urgent and transformative action” to address biodiversity loss through the participation of “all of society”, including Indigenous and local communities. 

COP15 will also work to establish a “new work programme and institutional arrangements” to position Indigenous peoples as “implementing partners” of the GBF, according to a press briefing held by the CBD. However, it remains to be seen what this will entail for those communities and what will be required to assure their participation. 

The press briefing also said that parties are “encouraged to…strengthen the capacity of Indigenous peoples and local communities to exercise their rights and responsibilities in sustainable wildlife management”, as well as to collaborate with these communities to identify key areas for biodiversity.

A painted memorial to Berta Caceres, the murdered Honduran environmental and indigenous rights campaigner, at Camden Lock in London, 2016.
A painted memorial to Berta Caceres, the murdered Honduran environmental and indigenous rights campaigner, at Camden Lock in London, 2016. Credit: Mark Kerrison / Alamy Stock Photo.

Yet Indigenous groups remain sceptical about the success of this UN Biodiversity Conference.  

At a pre-COP15 webinar hosted by the International Institute for the Environment and Development, Alejandro Argumedo, the coordinator of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples, said that the draft is lacking recognition of Indigenous land rights and ownership in biodiverse areas. Argumedo also pointed out a lack of concern on the killing of Indigenous land defenders and said that Indigenous peoples are being left out of the decision process.

The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), a group of Indigenous representatives that coordinates Indigenous strategies at COPs, agrees that a human rights-based approach is needed in order to make the GBF truly transformative.

Other issues

The topics listed above are by no means exhaustive, and a range of other issues are sure to arise at the summit, experts tell Carbon Brief.

Several countries have stated their support for including specific language in the GBF calling for the consideration of youth and women and gender minorities in addressing biodiversity loss. 

With the proposed addition of a section laying out principles and approaches, controversy has arisen over whether language in that section surrounding human rights-based approaches means such language does not need to be repeated within individual targets. 

At the preparatory meetings in Geneva, a 22nd target was added to the GBF calling for “mainstreaming gender across all biodiversity objectives and goals”.

Another target, which was proposed by the UK, but not discussed, related to the intersections of human health and biodiversity. That target called for a “One Health” approach focusing on the intersections of human health, planetary health and animal health to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases. Experts tell Carbon Brief that, although unlikely, it is still possible for more targets to be added at this stage.

Several countries have stated the need for striking a balance between protecting land ecosystems and those of the ocean. These include several European nations, such as the UK, Italy and Portugal, but also Syria. 

Submissions to the CBD detail a range of pollutants that various nations would like to see covered by the GBF. The EU and Nigeria support the inclusion of noise and light pollution in the GBF, while Brazil is opposed to such a move. 

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The EU is also a proponent of including a reference to ending plastics pollution, with South Africa coming down on the other side of the issue. 

Ethiopia has called for recognition of electronic waste pollution, while Gabon would like to see heavy metals and mercury included.

Along with the calls for a shift to sustainable food production systems are the arguments over quantitative targets, housed in Target 16. An unbracketed – that is, agreed-upon – part of the text calls for halving global food waste. But in addition to that is a sentence calling for the global footprint of diets, food systems and/or consumption per capita to be cut by half.

Halving the so-called “footprint” of production and consumption is championed by the EU and some of its member states, as well as the UK, several members of the JUSCANZ group, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. The likely blockers of this section of the target include Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Paraguay, South Africa and Sudan.

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